The mid-era Darkthrone period is mostly a forgettable one. Panzerfaust
was the last of the band’s typical black metal albums before they began their slow transformation into a black metal influenced crust punk band. Surprisingly, 1999’s Ravishing Grimness
holds quite well on it’s own, sounding less like a transition album and more like an attempt at capturing what made them special in the first place. In Darkthrone’s case, it was honesty. They knew they weren’t the same evil guys that put out the ice cold Transylvanian Hunger
and they realized that trying to put out the same album multiple times never works. Ravishing Grimness
shows an experimental side of Darkthrone; still trying to be being honest to their black metal roots while branching out into a fun sound that would define themselves in later albums.
The album begins on a negative note. “Lifeless” is described perfectly by its song title - lifeless. The vocals are decent but the songwriting is bland, the riffs are lazy, and the drums are akin to that of AC/DC (which obviously is not a compliment). Thankfully the album picks up a little bit in the next track, “The Beast,” in which Darkthrone pull a black ‘n’ roll style riff about a minute in. “The Claws of Time” is definitely the highlight of the album though, starting with an optimistic sounding riff before closing with one of the best outros of their career. The title track is another track pick, having riffs that could've been B-sides off an early Burzum album. Still even the weaker songs have some redeemable qualities. “Across the Vacuum,” for one, starts off with one of Darkthrone’s most uninspired, disjointed riffs made worse by half-assed blast beating by Fenriz, but picks up some momentum half way through the song when atmosphere takes over instead of the riffs - much like the rest of the good moments on the album.
In fact, that’s one of the few things Ravishing Grimness
has going for it: atmosphere. The production on this album is easily the best out of their mid-era albums; the guitars have a bleakness to them that was lacking on Hate Them
, and the production isn’t as outright terrible as it was on Total Death
and Sardonic Wrath
, and this atmosphere actually makes some of the bad riffs on the album, well, not that bad. The beginning of “The Claws of Time” would sound downright cheesy with Plaguewielder
’s dry production but the fullness of the guitars here make it sound almost hopeful, something pretty rare in the genre. The atmosphere also helps “To the Death (Under the King),” the fastest song on the album, sound like an actual black metal song as opposed to a bland proto-thrash metal band’s attempt at black metal.
Despite all its positives, Ravishing Grimness
simply feels like a lazy effort. It was the inevitable start of the band running out of steam, only to be confirmed by their next release. But aside from the fairly uninspired song writing and cliché lyircs, Ravishing Grimness
has enough redeemable qualities to make it a worthy spin to any Darkthrone or metal fan in general.